In the last 15 months deep-diving into decentralised orgs, I’ve noticed that they can be tough places for some people to feel at home in. As much as many of us have craved alternatives to pyramid orgs and centralised orgs for years, and are excited about decentralised coordination and cooperation, the reality of landing in a community where people self-select into roles and working groups, a ‘create your own journey’ experience, means that some people are falling through the cracks.
While we can set up onboarding support to help new members find their feet, as we’re doing here in the TEC - and a key aspect of my role as dOrg’s new Experience Facilitator (one of the main reasons my role was created) - once people are onboarded, the process is basically: ‘Go off and find a role you’d like to do or a group you want to work with; find the right fit and thrive, my friend’.
This works exceptionally well for some people, who leap straight into the mix, share their thoughts and ideas, and soon find a home in their new community.
For some people, however, this is the point where they lose touch with the community, meaning the community misses out on having these people as active members of the community, and they feel lost, and a bit bruised by the whole experience.
I’m hesitant to focus on extroversion versus introversion because the reality of fitting in to a DAO is much more nuanced than levels of introversion and extroversion, and these traits themselves are nuanced (I’m a classic extroverted introvert!); and, anyway, the problem isn’t justt ‘how can we make introverts feel at home’ (although that’s important) but: ‘how do we create numerous belonging pathways that work for all types of personality styles, information processing, and levels of social ease?’
Compared to other decentralised orgs, such as Enspiral for example, DAOs can be even tougher to settle in since many new members are also navigating a complex toolkit of new processes, tools, and arrangements.
Let me give you a specific example: In the last three weeks at dOrg we’ve onboarded 5 new members. Each of these members has a variety of skills in their fields, but not a single one of them has been a member of a DAO before, and most of them had limited experience with crypto. When talking them through their next steps are 1. looking through all of our project-focused Discord channels and approaching the Project Managers to see if they need help, and 2. attending our next dOrg-wide meeting to introduce themselves and share what kind of work they’re interested in, a couple of our new members seemed confident and eager to do that, two seemed a little unsettled, and one looked very concerned and uncertain.
My guess is that the last one is someone that I’ll have to give more time and support to, which I have no problem doing. And please don’t get me wrong: I see all the innovative and beautiful systems that DAOs - and the TEC in particular - are implementing to support new members and nurture a caring, people-oriented culture. Still, maybe we could be having more discussions about:
How do we better include all kinds of personalities, levels of social ease, and types of information processing?
Here are some examples of our current systems at TEC I’ve been noticing, and how they work better for certain people and not others:
We invite new members to jump into WG calls for the areas they’re interested in as a first step.
This can be difficult and not a perfect fit for some people: the groups can be quite large and the ‘rounds’ put the spotlight on people that might not want the spotlight on them.
Besides joining a main WG call, we currently don’t offer alternatives for settling into the TEC except for encouraging people to reach out to work on a task, often meaning that someone will be working on their own once the task’s been assigned - this doesn’t bring them firmly into the fabric of a community.
We also don’t have a norm of small groups self-organising from the larger WGs. Smaller teams can be really beneficial for engendering confidence and ‘landing’ in a new community, and work best for certain types of people. Some people find their feet best by diving early-on into a shared, specific task as part of a small group that meets regularly, since being useful and intimately connected to a few people can be some people’s preferred way of settling into a new community.
However, large groups are great for extroverted folk that are at ease socially and flourish being in that large group energy. There’s nothing wrong with that at all! I’m a classic extroverted introvert - I love it sometimes, and don’t others. But it’s very much suited to some people, and not to others.
Large WG circles, meeting once a week, as a main way to contribute can be unsettling for some people
I think I’m a pretty quick learner but I often find I spend most of the main calls trying to catch up with what’s happened before, understand the new tool that I haven’t come across before, and be useful by contributing something.
Again, small groups can be really useful for some people because they can deep-dive into one aspect and get to know that really well, happily leaving other aspects to other people. It can also increase confidence to know that they’re truly being useful by contributing in one particular way, instead of waiting for and then allocating themselves into tasks being shared by the steward, or by offering their thoughts on a subject they haven’t had much chance to learn about.
The TEC says that this is a space for anyone to start anything, but the reality is that it can be very tough for some people to do that in a new community, especially when they often don’t have the experience to know what’s needed or where they would be helpful, they don’t want to step on any toes, and where self-organising small groups aren’t the norm.
We don’t have clear expectations and agreements about WG meetings
Not having clear expectations and agreements, especially about decision-making, in WG meetings means that it’s tough to know what behaviours and input is welcomed, and what isn’t. I find that I often feel from responses in WG meetings that maybe I’ve said the wrong thing, or I was off-topic, or that it wasn’t the right place to ask a question. It might not be true, but without clearly shared expectations and agreements, it’s hard for some people to feel relaxed and to know that their input is welcome. Even when a steward is friendly!
A few months ago I shared an idea with Livia and Jess about setting up a DAO School with some members from Seeds and Hypha, which they gave their full support to, and we were due to start working on it when I got a notification that Stephen Reid and DAOHaus had one up and running. Which is great! If we can remove learning all the new tools and processes from arriving in and navigating a DAO for the first time, then it’s likely to make the arrival much easier. Plus it’s helpful for the entire DAO community, who now have better equipped new arrivals.
But perhaps there’s still something to a DAO Academy or DAO HR-type thing (as Nate was thinking), where we work with other DAOs to help them create multiple pathways within their DAOs and see how some simple changes could make an enormous difference to ensuring that people don’t fall through the cracks, and help place interested people in the DAOs that would best fit their interests and preferences.
The intention of this post is to:
- Spark a conversation. I’d love to know how this lands and to hear people’s thoughts and experiences.
- Spark off one of those small groups I’ve been talking about, under one of the main WGs (Gravity or Soft Gov seems the best fit), to explore this in more detail. I’m thinking at this point that a key starting point would be to experiment with how we can improve the DAO experience for the people that currently find it somewhat challenging here within the TEC.